Last week, our client management software supplier told us that as of next December, it’ll no longer support our system. The notice dealt a double whammy because the company doesn’t plan on replacing the software, and no other company has plans to step in.

This abrupt severance of a 20- year relationship induced a sense of bereavement—almost—as if we were losing a good friend, confidant and business partner.

When we started shopping for client management software more than 20 years ago, we hired a consultant to survey the marketplace and help select something that would grow with our clients, and with us. We studied the stability of the provider company and reviewed its clients across North America. Over the years we evolved together. We were loyal, shunning the advances of competitors who said their systems were better, more advanced, or more efficient.

Our software knows everything about our clients. It knows how old they are; whom they’re married to; their children’s ages; and where their grandchildren go to school. It sends out birthday cards, special-occasion gifts, and reminder notices when our clients’ life insurance premiums are due. In some cases, it knows what they like to eat and drink when they come to our office for meetings, and even notifies us if they’re allergic to nuts or other foods.

The system is privy to our clients’ most intimate dreams, goals, desires, strengths and challenges. It’s recorded their assets, liabilities, income and expenses, as well as the details of all our meetings. It knows who our clients’ executors will be when they die, and which beneficiaries will receive proceeds of their insurance policies.

We taught our system to record client conversations; to track clients’ investments and advise us when it was time to discuss portfolios. Occasionally, our system lost its memory, and we had to call on the backup. But each time it came back better and stronger, and helped us develop into the agency we are today.

And now our reliable friend is being put out to pasture. Its developers are moving on to more profitable endeavours, seeking new opportunities and new applications.

But it’s clear, in this day and age, a life insurance or financial planning agency cannot exist without client contact management software. Information on clients and product solutions must be seamless. While the paper file still does the rounds in firms, the microchip has replaced it for information storage and retrieval. We can save more data efficiently and effectively.

And data is king. It helps solidify relationships, keeping us on top of changes that affect planning and client recommendations. So for the next few months we’ll be scouring the market—looking at the next generation of client contact software. We’ll be looking for newer and better capabilities.

In the years since we computerized these processes our services have grown considerably. We offer risk management plans and products, investments, pensions, retirement planning and health and welfare plans. The majority of our clients take advantage of these multiple levels of service. We want the new system to be able to integrate the functions associated with these different financial plans and the products that relate to them. It’s also important for the software to have an in-depth time management component and reminder and retrieval system.

Another key attribute will be an easy method of migrating data. After accumulating millions of bits of information, re-entering it by keystroke is not an option. We’ll only consider a system where the data can be electronically transferred. That’s critical, even if we have to write a program to link the old and new software to facilitate data migration.

It’ll be sad when we close the final chapter on our current client contact software. But we’ll raise a glass and thank the system for 20 years of service. And we’ll move on to the next 20 years with an even better and stronger capability.

David Wm. Brown, CFP, CLU, Ch.F.C., RHU, TEP, is a member of the MDRT, and a partner at Al G. Brown and Associates in Toronto.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge